The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Mind the gap [year]

gap year globeWhile making the transition from high school to college is difficult, college is much more forgiving than the harsh adult world. Imagine skipping that step and going from the comfort of home and familiarity of high school directly into the chaos of financial, work and real-world responsibilities. This is the experience of students who opt to take a gap year before entering college.
Maisie Dolan, Phoebe Mogharei and Charlie Eddy (all ’16) made the choice to postpone enrollment in Grinnell for a chance to experience life without training wheels.
Since taking a year off is not the most traditional route after high school, the three all had their own reasons behind the decision.
Mogharei initially got the idea during a conversation with a teacher on an exchange program to Thailand through her high school.
“Two of my friends who were on the trip and my history teacher were talking about gap years and the possibility that we could defer a year from college and do a non-traditional experience. The three of us all ended up doing gap years,” she said.
Eddy made the decision after a conversation with his mother, in which she very bluntly asked him: “Are you sure you’re ready for college?” At that moment, he realized that he actually wasn’t.
Dolan was influenced heavily by a severe surgery during her senior year of high school.
“I don’t think I would have been able to come back to school after the summer. That was part of it, and I wanted to have the experience of working and traveling,” she said. “I just wanted to go and mess up and problem solve in the world by myself. So I did.”
All three took advantage of their time by traveling and working in foreign countries. Mogharei spent two months working as a housekeeper in St. John, in the Virgin Islands, two months working as an English tutor in New Delhi and two months studying Spanish in Buenos Aires. Dolan toured South Africa and Canada with a singing group, spent a month backpacking through England, France and Spain, and finally passed two months volunteering at a charity school in Ghana. Eddy spent two months teaching English to Tibetan refugees in India.
The differences in the culture in each place helped the students decide what type of work they would be doing.
“The public education system in New Delhi is pretty terrible. They have class three hours a day. They aren’t getting a very good education, so tutoring was a great experience,” Mogharei said.
Dolan’s work also helped provide education to those who would otherwise go without it.
“We were volunteering at a charity school. In Ghana to go to public school, you have to buy a uniform. If you can’t afford a uniform, you can’t go to school.  Here, anyone could come and we would teach them,” she said.
Besides traveling, both Eddy and Dolan spent time working in the United States. Before going abroad, Dolan found work through a Craigslist ad as a nanny in San Francisco.
“It was really important for me to fund the whole trip to get sense of what those finances meant,” she said.
While their experiences differed, all came away with a better sense of themselves. Eddy insisted that, although he never arrived at an epiphany, it was actually the lack of a lesson learned that made his experience worthwhile.
“There’s such a misconception about what a gap year entails and the level of ‘magical-ness’ in it. The value of my experience was in the mundanity and chronic, low-grade horribleness that it entailed. I attribute that to the better part of my maturation,” he said.
Both Mogharei and Dolan also expressed that there were times when they felt lost, both because of the cultural differences and the hardships of being alone for the first time. Mogharei remembered being deemed rude by a man in New Delhi after denying the stranger entry into her apartment. Dolan recalled hitchhiking in France and being left on the side of the road after a man attempted to leave with her bags in his car.
Nevertheless, all three wholeheartedly believe that their choices were beneficial and recommend taking time off to other students. In regards to any criticism that taking a year off leads to a decreased motivation for school, all three denied ever feeling tempted to defer college entirely. Instead, they felt that taking a gap year only increased their eagerness to learn and have the full college experience.
“It can only make you more confident in what you want to learn, how you want to be learning and what you want to do,” Dolan insisted.
At the same time, Mogharei acknowledged that time off may not be for everyone.
“You have to know yourself,” she said. “If you have interests and responsibility, you should look into it. It affects everyone differently, but it has definitely been a positive thing in my life and in my career here at Grinnell.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *